An Excerpt from CEF Founding Father, J. Irvin Overholtzer
A recently discovered message reveals the heart of the founder of Child Evangelism Fellowship, J. Irvin Overholtzer. In it “Mr. O” speaks about his conviction to evangelize children and tells the wonderful story of how CEF was born.
“I was told that a child of five, if properly instructed, can as truly believe as anyone. I saw, that if there was any truth in this statement, there was a door of opportunity lying open before us that we were not entering at all. I knew of no one, at this time, that was leading small children to Christ.
Finally, when I could not get away from the conviction to do something about it, I decided to make an experiment. I decided to lead some children to Christ, and watched them to see if there was any evidence of their being regenerated. I knew that the members of my church would not believe in what I was doing, so I attempted to do this secretly.
We had quite a large Sunday school, and a good many children were attending Sunday school from non-Christian homes. I gave them the Gospel as simply and as fairly as I knew how to, and then led them to a definite acceptance of Christ. Now I didn’t try children as young as five years old; the children that I dealt with were 9, 10, 11 and 12.
I did keep this much of a record– I dealt with twenty-one children before I was convinced. What finally convinced me, was that I had led two little girls, nine and eleven, to Christ. Their father was an infidel, and mother had never attended church. I led these girls to Christ.
The following Sunday, the mother of these two little girls came to church. After the first invitation that was given, she was the very first one to accept Christ. I went to her and said, ‘Would you mind telling me what has influenced you to come to Christ?’ and she said, ‘the changed lives of my two little girls.’ That is what started me in child evangelism.”
–J. Irvin Overholtzer